I have a philosophical problem with paying for two things: drinking water and bike rides. Doling out money for either just feels wrong somehow; I sometimes think it should be illegal to even charge for them. Drinking water and cycling are basic human rights, as far as I’m concerned, like access to the air we breathe or the right to go to the bathroom (which, come to think of it, I have had to pay for in some airports of the world. So make that three things I don’t believe should ever be monetized.) I’m not a cheap person—really. I have no problem spending freely on lots of things. Ask my wife.
But today I’m making an exception to my general rule of not paying for bike rides. I just ponied up my registration fee to ride in the Gran Fondo Whistler in September. I can tell you it took a great deal of nose-holding and general determination for me to click “Confirm” on the fee of $269.03 (all taxes and fees included). That’s right, I’m paying $269.03 so I can go on a bike ride. On my bike. With me doing all the work. $269.03
This is madness, I know. And it’s not just the money. In some ways, this kind of glitzy Gran Fondo contravenes the fundamental retro-gravel-DIY ethos of the Dusty Musette. Mass participation cycling events are generally not my thing. I accept that some people—lots of people—get a thrill out of being part of something truly grand, and that there can be a real sense of empowerment that comes from riding alongside thousands of other cyclists, taking over the roads of a major city for a day. But I’m not much for crowds, generally. Although I enjoy the social aspect of cycling, I prefer my fondos to be little less gran. Give me a ride with four friends over four thousand any day.
And, to boot, this event will, no doubt, be populated by thousands of über-serious roadies, skinny tire types decked out in expensive, perhaps even pretentious, kit. I can practically smell all the carbon fibre. It’s not really my scene.
But, despite all this, I’m betting the GFW will be worth it, for the Whistler event offers something pretty incredible, something that might just be worth the $269.03. It’s called the Sea-to-Sky Highway and it connects Vancouver to the ski resort of Whistler via 123 km of breathtaking coastal road. I’ve driven it (long ago) but never cycled it—and would never normally even consider cycling it. From what I’ve heard, the improvements done to the highway in preparation for the 2010 Olympics have made what was a notoriously dangerous road even worse for cyclists. But for the Gran Fondo, one lane of the road is closed to vehicle traffic for the whole day, meaning that for this one day a year, cyclists get some room to ride on this stunning highway. (Yes, I know, I will have to share that one lane with 4000 cyclists—but still.)
You may be wondering what I get for my $269.03. According to the website, my registration fee gets me the usual stuff, including stocked rest stops, mechanical support, and a post-ride meal. We’re on our own for getting back to Vancouver. It’s going to be an expensive weekend.
(Get this: for a mere $500, plus taxes and fees, you can register in the Alta Classe category and receive VIP treatment for the whole event, which, I think, means you get to use special Alta Classe toilets—make that toilettes—unsullied by the $269.03-paying masses. I imagine the AC toilettes smell like maple syrup.)
This one time, though, I’m willing to shell out the gran funds. I just hope they don’t try to charge me for a bottle of water.